European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 119, Issue 1, pp 1–8 | Cite as

Exploring the effect of exercise training on testicular function

  • Bárbara Matos
  • John Howl
  • Rita Ferreira
  • Margarida FardilhaEmail author
Invited Review



The impact of exercise training on testicular function is relatively ill-defined. To gain new insights into this important topic, published data, deriving from both humans and animal studies, were critically analyzed.

Results and conclusions

The effects of exercise on the hypothalamus–pituitary–gonadal axis, influenced by the type, intensity and duration of the exercise program, can be evaluated in terms of total and free testosterone and/or luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone serum levels and sperm parameters. High-intensity exercise promotes a common decrease in these parameters, and therefore, negatively impacts upon testicular function. However, published data for moderate-intensity exercise training are inconsistent. Conversely, there is consistent evidence to support the benefits of exercise training to prevent and/or counteract the impairment of testis function caused by aging, obesity and doxorubicin treatment. This positive effect is likely the consequence of decreased oxidative stress and inflammatory status. In the future, it will be important to clarify the molecular mechanisms which explain these reported discrepancies and to establish guidelines for an active lifestyle to promote healthy testicular function.


Physical activity Hypothalamus–pituitary–gonadal axis Testosterone Aging Obesity 



3β-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase


17β-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase


Body mass index




Deoxyribonucleic acid




Follicle-stimulating hormone


Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase


Glutathione peroxidase


Glutathione S-transferase


High capacity runners




Heat shock protein 70






Janus kinase 2


Low intrinsic capacity runners


Lactate dehydrogenase




Luteinizing hormone




Metabolic equivalents


Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate


Nuclear factor kappa B


Nuclear factor erythroid 2p45-related factor 2


Outer dense fiber protein 1


Microvascular oxygen partial pressure


Senescence-accelerated prone mouse model


Sex hormone binding globulin


Superoxide dismutase


Steroidogenic acute regulatory protein


Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3


Transforming growth factor alpha


Tumor necrosis factor alpha


Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick-end labelling

\(V{{\text{O}}_{{2_{\hbox{max} }}}}\)

Maximal oxygen uptake



We are thankful to the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), European Union, QREN, FEDER and COMPETE for funding the iBiMED (UID/BIM/04501/2013 and POCI-01-0145-FEDER-007628), QOPNA (UID/QUI/00062/2013) and CIAFEL (UID/DTP/00617/2013) research units, and the research project RUNawayPCa (POCI-01-0145-FEDER-006958 and PTDC/DTP-DES/6077/2014).

Author contributions

BM, JH, RF and MF contributed to the writing of this manuscript. JH contributed to the English editing. All authors approved the final version.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bárbara Matos
    • 1
    • 2
  • John Howl
    • 3
  • Rita Ferreira
    • 1
  • Margarida Fardilha
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.QOPNA, Department of ChemistryUniversity of AveiroAveiroPortugal
  2. 2.Signal Transduction Laboratory, iBiMED, Department of Medical SciencesUniversity of AveiroAveiroPortugal
  3. 3.Molecular Pharmacology Group, Research Institute in Healthcare ScienceUniversity of WolverhamptonWolverhamptonUK

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